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You should write at least 200 words.
You will want to use APA format with in-text and full end reference for citation of sources, which can help to give credit to the research you used and also to distinguish between your ideas and the sources.
Topic 1: Evidence and Conclusions about Culture on Nigeria. ( See below)
After completing the required readings,
1. identify the knowledge and experiences that are used when people come to conclusions about another country or culture?
2. What is a conclusion that you have about a country or culture that is different from your own?
3. how did you come to this conclusion?
4. How can you tell if the personal perception of a country or culture is accurate or a stereotype?
Reading on Nigeria- below this ! APA-
The marketplace is an appropriate metaphor for understanding the multicultural (nature) of modern Nigeria. For centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, the marketplace was the community center for a town and the surrounding settlements. It was the center of commerce, the local town hall, and the main social center all rolled into one. The characteristics are still true till today.
—Kennedy Ihewuokwu (2009) writing a blog for the Nigerians in America website
Nigeria is a dream worth striving for because we are unique among Africans. All we need to do is revamp the system by which we elect our leaders, devolve power from an overweening central government to local authorities, diversify our sources of revenue, make corruption and election rigging crimes punished by death for now (desperate times call for desperate measures). This way we’ll be on our way to becoming an economic powerhouse of global dimensions. That’s the Nigeria I live for. Otherwise, I’ll be living in France by now. One thing I fear the most is that my children will grow up in the Nigeria of today.
—Austin Inyang, Lagos, Nigeria, weighing in on a BBC News website dedicated to discussing what it means to be Nigerian 50 years after independence
Nigeria represents both the hope and the despair of Africa, a continent ruled by European colonial powers for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Nigeria itself was ruled by Britain until 1960 and has been an independent nation for 52 years. Although the country is rich in natural resources, its ruling classes have squandered them irresponsibly. Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer with revenues of $89 billion in 2014. Oil has been both a blessing and a curse. Corruption is widespread; Transparency International, in its annual survey of corruption among nations, consistently ranks Nigeria as among the most corrupt nations. Most government revenue comes from oil, making the economy particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in demand for oil. However, Nigeria became Africa’s new number one economy in 2014 after it added 89% to its gross domestic product (GDP), which became worth about $510 billion and raced past the previous leader, South Africa. The GDP revision provided a truer picture of Nigeria’s economy by appropriately weighting the role of telecom, banking, small business, and Nollywood (“Africa’s New Number One,” 2014). According to the Economist, it ranks 24th in the list of the world’s large economies behind Poland and Norway and ahead of Belgium and Taiwan. Despite this new status, Nigeria ranks 129th out of the 178 nations on the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.
Nigeria’s 162.5 million people constitute a little more than half the population of West Africa and make Nigeria Africa’s most populous country. GDP per person for 2013 as reported by the World Bank (2014) is about US$3,010 per year, which is just about 50% of South Africa’s GDP per head of US$6,618. Of the Nigerian population, 70% live on less than US$2 per day, while members of Parliament are paid huge salaries. Furthermore, Nigeria’s tropical weather subjects its citizens to a higher incidence of disease than residents of the more temperate parts of Africa. Along with many of its African neighbors, including South Africa, Nigeria has a low life expectancy of about 51.7 years for men and 53.4 years for women as compared to 75+ years in the world’s developed countries.
For almost all its postcolonial history, the nation was ruled by the military. When he became president in 1998, General Abdulsalam Abubakar forthrightly described the nation’s plight in the following way: “Currently, we are the world’s 13th poorest nation. Given our resource endowments, this sorry state is a serious indictment” (“First Things First,” 1998). In 2000, he handed over power to a democratically elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo. Ironically, it was Obasanjo who, as military ruler in 1979, had supported the first democratically elected government in Nigeria’s history. Unfortunately that government was short-lived, and military rule returned after 1983. The April 2007 election of Umaru Yar’Adua had many logistical problems but marked the first time that political power was transferred from one civilian government to another and bodes well for post-independent Nigeria’s future. Mr. Yar’Adua died in 2010, and his vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, took over as acting president in 2010; Goodluck was then elected in April 2011 for a 4-year term in an election that won general approval from international observers.
As a modern political entity, Nigeria came into existence in 1914 when the British amalgamated three of their West African colonial territories: the Colony of Lagos, the Southern Nigeria Protectorate, and the Northern Nigeria Protectorate. Each of the three territories, in turn, had been constructed by the British out of a diverse collection of indigenous kingdoms, city-states, and loosely organized ethnic groups through treaties or outright conquest. Thus Nigeria as a geopolitical entity was, in effect, a creation of British imperialism. Nigeria remained a colony of Britain until it gained independence in 1960. Sir Ahmadu Bello, the premier of the Northern Region at independence and a “founding father,” called the amalgamation “the Mistake of 1914,” and some Nigerians to this day blame their problems on this “mistake.” Others acknowledge, however, that the British were only part of the problem. As the great Yoruba leader, Obafemi Awolowo, who worked closely with the British, put it, the population was not ready for independence, lacking a “sense of civic responsibility” (quoted in Cunliffe-Jones, cited in Kaplan, 2010).
Archaeological evidence attests to millennia of continuous habitation of parts of what is now Nigeria. One of the earliest identifiable cultures is that of the Nok people, who inhabited the northeastern part of the country between 500 bceand 200 ce. The Nok were skilled artisans and ironworkers whose abstractly stylized terra-cotta sculptures are admired for their artistic expression and high technical standards (Burns, 1963). High-quality bronze art at Ife and Benin City in the southwestern parts of the country also predated the arrival of Europeans in the region. Over the centuries, successive waves of migration along trade routes into Nigeria from the north and northeastern part of the African continent swelled the population, which eventually became organized along tribal lines into kingdoms, emirates, city-states, and loosely organized ethnic groups. This was the setting the early European adventurers, notably Portuguese navigators, found when they first made contact with the people of the coastal regions in the 14th century.
The marketplace is an appropriate metaphor for understanding the culture of the people of modern Nigeria. In this context, the marketplace refers to the physical areas of a city, town, or rural village where indigenous commercial activities are concentrated. According to a report in the Economist, the Onitsha market in southern Nigeria looks as busy each and every day as any main street in a rich country during the Christmas shopping season. The shops are stacked high with goods, the streets are jammed with customers, and many call this the world’s biggest market (“Africa Rising,” 2011). Around 3 million people visit daily to buy commodities like rice, high-end goods like computers, and everything in between. The marketplace metaphor has a special significance because the bulk of the history of the region up to modern times can be summed up in one word: trade. Many of the ancestors of modern Nigerians first migrated to the region along trade routes; the slave trade was primarily responsible for the arrival of Europeans in large numbers; and after the abolition of the slave trade by the British in 1808, the need to enforce abolition and to replace the trade with legitimate commerce was a primary motivation for the British to maintain a presence.
For centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, the marketplace was the community center for a town and the surrounding settlements. It was the center of commerce, the local town hall, and the main social center all rolled into one. This characterization is still true in the rural areas where about two thirds of the Nigerian population still lives. Market networks link many towns and villages. The networks consist of major markets held on specific days and attract traders for miles around. In the past, such networks were the conduits through which new commodities, outside influences, and immigrants reached local communities.
The characteristics of the Nigerian marketplace that stand out include its diversity, its dynamism, and the balance between tradition and change. Each of these strongly reflects modern Nigerian society.
The typical Nigerian marketplace, especially in the bigger towns, is a sprawling, usually bustling place where virtually every commodity is available. As a general rule, the market is divided into rows of covered stalls, with a narrow aisle separating each row. Each row of stalls is assigned to a specific commodity, ranging from perishable foods to household electrical appliances. Sellers of similar commodities often unite to form market associations to look after common interests. The marketplace is where the vast majority of people shop for their daily needs. This is the case even in the urban centers where there are modern department stores. The roadside stalls, called Buka, also represent an opportunity for a good meal; the best local cuisine is to be found here. Commodities in plentiful supply include fresh meat and fish, vegetables, household goods, electrical appliances, jewelry, building materials, clothing, and traditional medicinal herbs. Nearly everything is available either wholesale or retail. In addition to commodities, the marketplace offers services, which include privately operated taxi and bus services to any part of town, heavy hauling, appliance repair, custom tailoring, and secretarial services.
The major marketplaces are usually centrally located, with a network of roads linking most parts of the town to the market. Intercity transportation hubs are usually located in close proximity to the main markets. The wide range of goods and services available and the size, relative importance, and modern nature of each market compared to others in the area are aspects of diversity that evoke the diversity of Nigeria as a whole.
The diversity of the Nigerian culture is one of its hallmarks. In a country about the size of Texas and New Mexico combined, there are about 300 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups, with as many distinct languages and dialects. Often a dialect is clearly understandable only to the inhabitants of a town and its immediate environs. Just as the marketplace is clearly divided into sections by commodity and into subgroups by market associations, so too is Nigerian society clearly delineated by ethnic and language differences. But just as the separate commodity sections form an integral whole to serve a common clientele, so too does Nigerian society try to forge a national identity out of the widely diverse ethnic groups artificially joined into a nation by the British.
The heterogeneity of Nigerian society is physical, social, religious, and linguistic. Each ethnic group is concentrated in clearly defined geographical areas that its people have occupied for centuries. The same is true of the sub-ethnic groups. Two large rivers, the Niger (from which the name of the country was derived) and the Benue, form a Y that divides the country into three parts. Each of the three parts is dominated by one of the three main ethnic groups: the Yoruba, the Hausa-Fulani, and the Ibo (or Igbo). The Yoruba are the only major ethnic group with a traditional aristocracy, and these elites are the most influential. Although the power and influence of the aristocratic class has diminished over the years, they are still a major social force in Yoruba society. Yoruba-speaking ethnic groups also dwell beyond the Nigerian border in the Benin Republic.
The Ibos are located primarily east of the Niger. Although they are more densely concentrated in their primary geographical area, they are more fragmented politically than the Yoruba or the Hausa-Fulani. The Ibos are notable for their business acumen and strong work ethic. They also have a long tradition of democracy and express strong antimonarchical sentiment with the common name Ezebuilo, which roughly translates as “A king is an enemy” (Achebe, 2011).
The Hausa-Fulani occupy most of the area to the north of the Niger and the Benue, an area more than twice as large as the two southern regions combined.
In most cases, differences in physical features among ethnic groups are not significant enough to reliably distinguish a member of one group from another. In the past, permanent facial markings were used to distinguish members of ethnic groups. Their primary purpose was to identify friend or foe in battle rather than to serve as bodily decoration. The practice of facial markings has been largely abandoned in modern times. Today names and attire are more reliable indicators of ethnic membership than physical attributes.
The Social Structure
With so many different ethnic groups and languages, it would seem that defining the contours and structures of this highly heterogeneous society is impractical. Admittedly it is difficult, but it is not impossible. There are several reasons for this. First, despite the great number of ethnic groups, four of them—Yoruba (21%), Hausa and Fulani (29%), and Ibo (18%)—comprise nearly 70% of the Nigerian population. As the Hausa and the Fulani have intermixed over the centuries, they are now commonly regarded as a homogenous group.
Second, the correspondence between language and ethnic group varies. Several groups may speak essentially the same language and have similar cultural characteristics but prefer to identify themselves as separate entities due to differences that span centuries. For instance, the Yoruba have at least 20 sub-ethnic groups, each of which vigorously protects its separate identity.
However, modernization and the federal government’s adoption of policies that promote a sense of national identity have gradually resulted in the emergence of some common national characteristics. Examples of such government intervention include the establishment of English as the official language of government and commerce throughout the country, the practice of posting some federal employees to states other than their own, and the requirement that all graduates of postsecondary institutions complete 1 year of national service. The influence of the mass media, especially television, has also helped break down cultural barriers among ethnic groups.
Nigeria has a long way to go regarding interethnic harmony, however. Interethnic mistrust is deep and is a primary reason for the repeated failure to establish a viable Western-style democracy since independence, giving the military an excuse to establish authoritarian regimes for long periods of time. Although most Nigerians are patriotic and genuinely want their country to work, deep-rooted ethnic allegiance often takes precedence over national allegiance. As a typical example, the Egba are among the 20-odd sub-ethnic groups of the Yoruba, but when the chips are down, an Egba considers himself an Egba first, a Yoruba second, and a Nigerian last. In the distant past, members of sub-ethnic groups fought bitter fratricidal wars among themselves. Territorial expansionism, control of trade routes, and the desire to cash in on the lucrative slave trade were among the reasons for conflict. Writing in My Nigeria, Peter Cunliffe-Jones, grandson of Nigeria’s last colonial governor, Hugo Marshall, suggests that his grandfather made a terrible mistake by not forcing the Yoruba and Hausa leaders (representing the major southern and northern tribal groups) to adopt a truly national constitution. Instead, they were allowed to adopt a federal structure that created regional power centers (cited in Kaplan, 2010).
Geert Hofstede (2001), in his landmark analysis of the cultural differences across 53 countries, did not include a single Black African nation. This was not because the multinational corporation in which the analysis was completed (IBM) had no subsidiary in any of them, because there was one in Nigeria during the period of the study. But IBM, along with several other multinational corporations, later chose to leave the country rather than comply with a new federal decree requiring 40% Nigerian equity in certain classes of foreign business investments. This policy illustrates an important aspect of the Nigerian psyche: a strong sense of national honor and self-worth. While Nigerians in general admire and actively attempt to emulate Western economic and social development, they are quick to take offense at real or perceived condescension on the part of Western expatriates.
The recent GLOBE study (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004) included Nigeria and found it to be high on power distance, high on both institutional and in-group collectivism, medium on gender egalitarianism(classified in the same band as China, Germany, and the United States), and relatively high on uncertainty avoidance or risk aversion. Traditionally, a large power distance exists between social classes and between superiors and subordinates in most Nigerian ethnic groups except the Ibos. If the four major ethnic groups are ranked in order of power distance, the Hausa-Fulani would most probably score the highest, followed closely by the Yoruba, and trailed by the Ibos. The Hausa-Fulani are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims who have adopted much of the Islamic world’s rigid social order and way of life. About 20% of the Yoruba follow their ancestral religion and the rest are almost evenly divided between Islam and Christianity. The Yorubas’ high power distance is tempered considerably by opportunity for upward mobility based on individual achievement. The Ibo were noted as an egalitarian society for centuries and have largely remained so. Their dominant religion is Christianity.
Collectivism and high uncertainty avoidance are more evenly applicable to the bulk of Nigerian society regardless of tribal affiliation. Virtually all the disparate ethnic groups believe in the extended family system. Hometown associations are formed with the express purpose of improving the infrastructure and facilities in the community. For example, during the early years of national development, it was not unusual for a community to sponsor the overseas studies of promising local students in the hope that they would return to serve the community. Nigerians also score relatively high on uncertainty avoidance or risk aversion, preferring to deal with people and situations with which they are familiar.
However, some research suggests that the business-oriented Ibos are more individualisticthan the other major ethnic groups. That is, they explain their success or failure in terms of their own abilities; whereas other Nigerian ethnic groups emphasize luck or the situation (see Smith & Bond, 1998). Given this research, we would expect that the Ibos would have a longer-term time orientation and would be more willing to sacrifice short-term enjoyment to attain long-term goals. The GLOBE study (House et al., 2004) classifies Nigeria as scoring relatively high on a future orientation toward societal practices. The authors were surprised to find that many developed countries scored lower on future orientation than developing countries. They argue that emerging and lower-income nations may “see a stronger need for taking a long-term perspective and sacrificing for the future because they must cope with scarce and limited resources” (Ashkanasy, Gupta, Mayfield, & Trevor-Roberts, 2004, p. 305).
In general, Nigerian society is heavily patriarchal, and both its dominant religions, Islam and Christianity, proclaim the superiority of males to females. Because of the taboos associated with open discussion of sexuality among women and girls, many women suffer silently from sexually transmitted diseases. According to data from the Nigerian government, Nigeria accounts for 10% of the global HIV/AIDS burden. There are thousands of HIV orphans, and life expectancy for both men and women has declined over the last decade.
However, there are some notable differences among the three major ethnic groups. The Hausa-Fulani, true to their Muslim religion, tend to consider women as subordinate to men in virtually every respect. This is not the case among the Ibos and the Yoruba, where women have traditionally faced relatively little opposition to their entrepreneurial spirit.
Nigerians have often been characterized as resourceful, pragmatic, entrepreneurial, and energetic (Aronson, 1978). In this context, social dynamism refers to the energy, vigor, and adaptability of Nigerian society. These qualities are readily observable at the Nigerian marketplace, which bustles with activity, especially on Saturdays when most families do the weekly grocery shopping. Traders hawk their wares in cadences particular to their commodity. The bargaining is energetic, with the burden being on the customer to negotiate a fair price. While many items have fixed prices, most do not, so the smart shopper must come to the market fully armed with knowledge of the latest fair prices. The shopper must also be savvy about the various shady characters who are attracted to the marketplace. The typical seller, in turn, has perfected the art of keeping a poker face to extract as much profit from the sale as possible without antagonizing the customer.
Many shoppers have favorite stalls that they repeatedly patronize. Such repeat buyers are often taken care of quickly, with the minimum of negotiating necessary to arrive at a mutually acceptable price. In recent years, sellers seem to have concluded that the time and effort spent on haggling are not worth the extra profit and have started to place a fixed price on as many items as possible. Prices are usually set by market or trade associations, and changes are frequently communicated by word of mouth several times a day.
Doing things quietly is not the Nigerian way, whether it is an argument, a political discussion, a celebration, or a sad occasion. Just as the market bustles with a cacophony of sights and sounds, so too do Nigerians complete most activities with gusto. The dynamism of Nigerian society is reflected in the business and political landscape, the attitude toward education, the manner in which the people celebrate holidays and family events, and their favorite leisure pursuits.
At independence, Nigeria’s economy was engaged almost exclusively in the production of food for home consumption and commodities (e.g., cocoa, groundnut, and palm oil) for export. The vast deposits of oil and natural gas had not yet been discovered. Since then, successive governments, including the military regimes, have made the development of the industrial sector of the economy a priority.
Just as the local marketplace bustles from dawn to dusk with activity, so too Nigeria’s more formal economic scene bustles with complicated deals and contracts. Nigeria has considerable crude oil and natural gas resources and has been a member of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since the 1960s. This natural wealth has provided the resources to modernize the economy, especially during the boom years of the 1970s, when vast amounts of new crude oil deposits were being discovered in the coastal areas at the same time that prices of crude oil were steadily rising in the world market. At this time, the federal government took steps to ensure greater Nigerian participation in such key economic activities as banking, insurance, manufacturing, and oil production, which were then dominated by foreign companies or their local subsidiaries. The recent “rebasing” of the GDP has acknowledged the importance of other sectors such as telecom, banking, and of course the thriving Nigerian film industry. Unfortunately, only a small fraction (less than 10%) of the population controls much of the wealth. Many analysts see a direct link between crude oil and corruption and strongly argue for the creation of a system that will prevent politicians from having access to petrodollars. It is estimated that about US$400 billion has been siphoned from Nigeria’s treasury since independence, making it very hard for the country to succeed despite its advantages (Achebe, 2011). The wide gap between the rich and the poor is a major concern for Nigeria’s economic planners. Abject poverty co-exists with enormous wealth. For many years the federal government dominated and closely controlled the economy, but in recent years it has recognized the detrimental effects of meddling too much and has moved toward the establishment of a freer market.
The Nigerian political arena is not for amateurs or the faint-hearted, just as the marketplace is not for those who are not versed in the fine art of haggling. Politics in Nigeria is a rough-and-tumble game, and only the fittest survive. Politicians, including ex-presidents, are sometimes put in jail on questionable charges.
However, unlike the situation in many African countries, Nigerian political leaders are less inclined to impose a single-party state. The electorate is too sophisticated for that. Modern Nigeria is a federation of 36 states and a new federal capital, Abuja, which is located near the geographical center of the country. The states are further divided into 774 local government areas. The political framework is similar, by design, to the federal system of the United States, but the institutions and requirements reflect the needs and experience of the country. The federal government consists of an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch. Each of the 36 states is similarly organized.
Officially Nigeria is a Western-style democracy, but the threat of authoritarian rule is never far away, and there have been several military coups. Nigerians are accustomed to waking up to a brand-new government that has taken shape overnight. They have learned not to let political instability interfere too much with their daily lives and business activities. One of the challenges for the President and the political parties will be to bring greater stability to the turbulent Niger Delta region, where kidnappings of foreign oil workers, gang warfare, and militant activity are quite common. This is despite the fact that billions of dollars of oil money have been funneled to this region under a federal formula that favors the oil-producing area. In fact, a ghostly high-rise hotel, a luxury shopping-center-in-waiting, a mostly empty large hospital, and incomplete housing projects dot the landscape, and out of US$30 billion in supplemental oil revenue funding, almost US$22 billion remains unaccounted for (Nossiter, 2011). Elsewhere, schools crumble and people live in squalor. This then is the paradox of Nigeria today.
Many of the traders and craftspeople in the marketplace are graduates of apprenticeships. In the same manner, Nigerian society believes that a sound educational system will provide the energy that will propel the country into the industrialized age. Parents who have the means hire private tutors, send their children to prestigious schools that may be far away from home, and give up their own comforts so that their children can do better than they have. Like the political system, the education system is patterned after that of the United States. One reason is that many of the policy makers in government were educated in the United States. However, Nigeria’s federal government performs abysmally in the area of education.
Education is free and compulsory up to the sixth grade, but most students choose to go further, if they have the means. English is the official language of instruction. It is introduced at the primary school level and used exclusively at the secondary and postsecondary levels. The government, recognizing the value of a high level of literacy to rapid development, has tried to take advantage of oil wealth to implement a free education policy at all levels. It has not been able to achieve this objective partially due to the sheer size and cost of the educational system, which is government controlled at all levels. Admission to postsecondary institutions is limited and extremely competitive. Although these institutions continue to expand, they are currently not capable of admitting all the students who qualify for admission.
Furthermore, Nigerians are not shy about making a public scene when the need arises, just as the haggling in the marketplace is sometimes done with rancor whenever either party steps over the line of decorum. Arguments are typically carried on in a loud and animated manner, but they rarely lead to physical combat. Bystanders eagerly offer their own loud opinions about the ongoing dispute. The urban centers, especially in the south, are overcrowded, and there is a constant influx of students and job seekers from rural areas. Competition is intense for nearly everything. Jobs, housing, transportation, and other daily necessities of life are in scarce supply in the cities, even though cities receive a disproportionate share of federal development budgets.
So believing that it is a jungle out there, the smart urbanite steps out each morning prepared to survive another hectic day. Western expatriates usually, but not always, are untouched by all this hustle and bustle of daily life because they tend to live in the quieter, wealthier neighborhoods built in colonial times when the government and larger foreign companies built residential reservations for their expatriate staff.
Not everyone goes to the market to shop. Some go to take in the scene, browse, or meet friends. Nigerians take their leisure seriously and try to find the time to indulge in their favorite leisure activities. They are keenly interested in sports, and their preferred sporting activities reflect their dynamism. Wrestling was a popular sport in many parts of the country before the arrival of the Europeans. It is still popular, as is boxing. But neither comes close to the interest in soccer, as both a participatory and spectator sport.
Checkers is popular among the lower working class, and the game is typically accompanied by friendly banter and bets (nonmonetary). A favorite way to relax is to be in the company of friends who can trade war stories about the vagaries of daily life, pass on the latest social gossip, and solve the country’s problems. Nigerians in general do not seek isolation and solitude; in fact they avoid them as much as possible.
Holidays and ceremonies are an important aspect of Nigerian culture. Both the Christian and Islamic holidays are nationally observed, as are local community festivals, some of which have been celebrated for centuries. Some local festivals were of a pagan nature but are now largely stripped of religious significance. Common ceremonies include weddings, the naming of a new child, and funerals. Such ceremonies often are lavish affairs, depending on the wealth of the celebrants. Ostentatious display of wealth is the norm, and the rich often welcome the opportunity to make a brash, bold, in-your-face statement to the world that they are rich and not ashamed to show it. Everyone knows what the status symbols are: the big wedding or funeral, the chauffeured car, the expensively tailored suits, and the big houses complete with servants quarters. There was even a time, during the oil-boom years, when owning your own jet was on the list.
Holidays provide a respite from what many in the populace regard as the rat race of daily life. Even the marketplaces are silent and empty on the major holidays. The favorite way to spend a holiday is to hold a feast or to attend one. Either way, holidays provide an opportunity to congregate and socialize with good friends.
Only a small percentage of the population, mainly the wealthy elite, enjoys recreation and leisure in the Western sense. They may play tennis or golf or go for a swim. At exclusive country clubs, admission is usually based on wealth, connections, and social status. The vast majority of the population does not have the means or the time to indulge in Western-style leisure, and the average Nigerian does not go on a road trip just to see the country or go for a hike in the woods just to commune with nature. In the cities Nigerians tend to frequent the ample nightclubs, movie houses, restaurants, and private clubs.
One form of recreation that is changing Africa is Nigeria’s film industry, otherwise known as Nollywood. According to a report in the Economist, Nollywood, which is second only to its Indian counterpart Bollywood, produces about 50 full-length features per week. With revenues of $600 million a year after a little over two decades in existence, it is an unqualified success in Africa. The influence of Nigerian films is so pervasive in Africa that Ivorian rebels are reported to have stopped fighting when a shipment of DVDs arrived from Lagos. Zambian mothers observed that their kids talk with accents learned from Nigerian television, and the president of Sierra Leone drew crowds at campaign rallies after inviting a Nigerian screen goddess to join him. However, this has generated a backlash not only from cultural critics who worry about the “Nigerianization” of Africa but also from other African governments, which have instituted protectionist measures in the form of high fees required of visiting actors, producers, and directors. Film plays an important role in fostering understanding across the different cultures on the continent and is replacing music and dance as the dominant medium. Overall, the success of Nollywood has spurred competition from other African countries and is perceived as the voice of Africa, an antidote to Western media portrayals of the continent (“Lights, Camera, Africa,” 2010).
Balancing Tradition and Change
Modern Nigerian society is markedly different from the cultures that existed before outside influences began to take hold in the early 19th century. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the way the center of political and economic power has shifted from local traditional rulers and their councils of senior chiefs to the educated elite, business magnates, politicians, and the military. No country wants to be an island, isolated from all outside influences. If outside influences threaten to engulf aspects of the society that are cherished by its members, however, then it is necessary to take actions to preserve them. This is true for modern Nigeria, which seeks to modernize without sacrificing cherished traditional values.
Among the facets of daily life that rulers in precolonial times tightly controlled were the local marketplaces, especially the most important ones. Among the Yoruba, for instance, the largest and most influential markets were situated in front of, or in close proximity to, the king’s official residence, and they were called oja oba (the king’s market). In some areas, the official title of the local head chief was loja (owner of the market). Virtually all markets are now administered by local government councils, which are popularly elected bodies. Although control of the markets has shifted from traditional rulers to the people, these rulers are still regarded in many places as the titular heads of the markets, especially in rural areas. Changes in market administration are indicative of the broader changes that have occurred in Nigerian society as a result of modernization.
Other notable aspects of culture and tradition that have changed considerably over the years include religious preferences, the traditional family compound, dating behavior, language, sports, and leisure pursuits. However, the changes are not universal. As a general rule, the rate of change in the urban centers has far outpaced that in the rural areas. One exception is a recent harsh law that criminalizes homosexuality and prescribes 10 year prison terms for a public show of same-sex relationships. It was signed by President Goodluck Jonathan and is supported by a vast majority of Nigerians. Although homosexuality has always been illegal, this law is seen as an attempt by the country to “sanitize” itself of gays. Crackdowns are particularly harsh in the mostly Muslim north (Nossiter, 2014).
Power and Influence
In precolonial days, power was heavily concentrated in the hands of local kings and their chiefs. Palace intrigues and territorial expansionism through intertribal warfare were common. Again, an exception to this situation was the Ibos, whose egalitarian social structure did not allow for the concentration of power in any one individual or small group of rulers.
Although their power and influence have been largely curtailed by the establishment of more democratic political systems, traditional rulers still play an important role in their communities. They are regarded as the custodians of their people’s legacy and identity, and they are usually at the forefront of the fight to defend traditional values against Western influence. In addition, some senior local traditional rulers, especially in the north, have learned to exert influence behind the scenes. Moreover, northern Muslim traditional rulers also tend to be their community’s religious leaders. Thus some senior traditional rulers have become even more powerful than if they still had direct political power. But they are no longer referred to in English as king. The most common English term used is traditional ruler.
When a traditional ruler dies, the eligible candidates campaign vigorously to win ascendancy to the throne, because there is almost never an automatic line of succession. Candidates are drawn from traditional ruling families, and only the adult male members are eligible. In some areas the chieftaincy is rotated, by tradition, from one ruling family to another.
Traditional rulers are selected by a council whose members are invariably called kingmakers, consisting of the senior chiefs in the community. The selection process varies from community to community. It is worth noting that while the selection process has largely remained unchanged, the criteria for selection have changed markedly over the years. Today candidates with adequate formal education who have distinguished themselves in a professional field are favored.
Church and Family
Major changes have occurred in the area of religion. The first religious incursions came from the north, when the Fulani under Usman Dan Fodio overran the Hausa and other northern states in the 18th century. The conquerors forcibly established Islam in the city-states that dotted the region. Usman Dan Fodio would have carried out his vow to expand his jihad (holy war) all the way to the sea if the British, who were then establishing a presence in the south, had not put a stop to his ambition (Burns, 1963). The early European explorers and traders entering the country from the south were quickly followed by Christian missionaries. Today only a small percentage of Nigerians still adhere exclusively to indigenous animist religions. About 50.4% classify themselves as Muslim, 48.2% as Christian, and 1.4% as other.
Many did not find the spirituality they needed in what they considered the sterile form of worship of the European Christian sects. Some were also turned off by the perceived condescension of the Christian missionaries. Indigenous Christian sects founded and led by Nigerians soon began to proliferate, especially in the Yoruba-dominated western region. Notable sects include the Cherubim and Seraphim sect, the Apostolic Church, and the African Church. What these indigenous sects have in common is a form of worship that is reflective of Nigerian society: less formality in worship, singing and dancing to lively indigenous Christian music, spontaneous audience participation during worship services, and a deep personal relationship with God. Today some of these sects are increasing their memberships at a rapid rate.
While the general population has welcomed many of the inevitable changes that have accompanied modernization, it has perceived others as socially regressive. An example is the way the traditional family compound has changed. In the past, as the male children in a family became adults, they were given plots of land adjacent to the family home on which to build their own houses in preparation for starting their own families; female members of the family were expected to get married and become members of their husbands’ families. Today young adults are more likely to move to the cities, first to further their education, then to work or engage in business. In the cities, the relative scarcity of land and the high cost of building construction make family compounds impractical. The result has been a decline in allegiance to the larger kinship group. Urban centers continue to grow in size and population while rural areas stagnate or shrink.
Weddings are usually major events, with members of the extended family on both sides in attendance. Alternatives for weddings include holding them in the local magistrate court, a church, or mosque or having a traditional wedding in which the bride and groom wear Nigerian dress and Nigerian music plays in the background. Many couples choose a combination of the traditional wedding with one of the other alternatives. Most brides take their husband’s surname immediately after marriage. Divorce was at one time rare but is becoming common due, in part, to the pressures of modern life and the decline of the family compound.
Like the family structure, linguistic patterns have changed considerably. Because of waves of migration of young people from rural areas to urban centers, many of the 300-odd ethnic languages are now spoken by as few as 10,000 people. The three main languages—Hausa, Yoruba, and Ibo—are spoken by more than 65% of the population. It is telling that after 52 years of nationhood, very few Nigerians are interested in learning to speak another ethnic group’s language.
Also, urban versions of the major languages have developed. For instance, Lagosian is the term given to the style of Yoruba spoken in Lagos, the former capital, which is in Yorubaland. Lagosian is a stylized version of spoken Yoruba, peppered with English words and considered by young Yorubans to be the most sophisticated version of the language. Yorubans also have a tendency to add an o at the end of words to add emphasis. When this is extended to English, words such as sorry-o are shouted to someone who suffers a misfortune (Harris, 2008). The Yoruba language is distinctive in that it is tonal, similar to Chinese. It is the only tonal language in Africa and has three tones.
Another urban language is pidgin English, which is spoken chiefly by the lower working class. It cuts across ethnic lines, providing a means of communication among the disparate ethnic groups that live and work side by side in the large urban centers. Some Nigerian stand up comics use pidgin English to communicate effectively across different ethnic groups thus uniting people in laughter through the challenges of life in Nigeria. However, the Nigerians’ English (a quaint combination of Victorian-era vocabulary and grammatical and syntax structures of indigenous languages) has given rise to some concern that they will not be understood in a globalized world. Eateries are chop houses, street children are urchins, a dead or jailed robber is often said to have met his Waterloo, and the infamous Nigerian e-mail scams are committed by the “Yahoo-yahoo boys” (Harris, 2008).
Just as some markets have remained in the same location for centuries, selling many of the same traditional foodstuffs throughout that time, so too have some beliefs, practices, and social norms endured the onslaught of centuries of outside influence. Aspects of Nigerian culture that have survived colonialism and modern influences largely intact include seniority and authority relationships, social roles and status, a rigid class structure (where it existed), orientation to time, view of work, early socialization, the extended family system, and traditional festivals.
A strict system of seniority governs normal interpersonal relations. Children, for instance, are expected not to look their parents or elders directly in the eye while being scolded. This expected deference applies to any interaction in which one party is significantly senior to the other. The prerogative to use first names is granted only to close friends and superiors. It is considered an insult for a younger sibling to address an older sibling casually by the first name unless they are very close in age. An age difference of just 1 year is enough for an older individual to expect to be addressed respectfully.
A common way to address a superior respectfully is to precede the first name with a respectful salutation. Among the Yoruba, one way to do this is to precede the first name of the older sibling with buroda (derived from brother) or anti (derived from auntie). Both terms have English origins, and it is not clear how the Yoruba began to use them as a means of conveying deference. Parents are invariably addressed using the local equivalents of the Western Dad or Mom.
This seemingly stratified ordering by age group and seniority reflects the high power distance discussed previously. The larger the age difference or seniority, the greater the amount of deference expected. Methods of greeting seniors, parents, and other adults vary among ethnic groups, but they generally involve some bowing of the head, if the greeter is male, or bending of the knees, if the greeter is female.
In return for deference, the seniors are expected to guide, lead by example, and generally be supportive of their subordinates. Although the major criterion for determining seniority in social situations is age, there are instances where the senior in a situation is the younger person. In the workplace, for instance, a supervisor may be senior to much older workers from whom he or she may expect the deference accorded to seniors.
In business situations and among the educated, Western greeting behavior is more prevalent than traditional greeting behavior, but traditional greetings are still expected where the age or seniority gap is significant. This requirement does not extend to subordinate expatriates, who are routinely excused from traditional greeting requirements in favor of Western ones. Superior expatriates are not accorded traditional greetings either, not because they are not considered worthy but perhaps because they do not expect such traditions to be observed.
The Nigerian’s attitude toward work is a study in contrasts and points to a deep-seated social problem that retards economic progress. On the one hand, entrepreneurs work prodigious hours to build and maintain their businesses. On the other hand, the average wage earner wants to put in as little effort as possible. Because the first group often must hire the second, conflict results. The attitude of workers is not a manifestation of an inherent laziness; it seems to be a manifestation of a lack of faith in the system. Many workers simply do not believe that advancement on the job is based on performance. They have been conditioned to believe that favoritism, nepotism, and other unfair methods are the usual means of advancement. This attitude is further reinforced by the fact that seniority (length of service) rather than performance is a common criterion for advancement, especially in the civil service. The effect of this attitude on national productivity is not difficult to fathom.
The same deep distrust of the establishment is the reason why Nigerians of all stripes dislike paying taxes. Wage earners cannot avoid having their taxes withheld, but entrepreneurs can and do work around the tax system without feeling the least bit guilty. The widespread incidence of official corruption and mismanagement is often cited as justification for cheating the government out of taxes. Quite a few entrepreneurs convince themselves that they can use the money for the public good better than government bureaucrats.
The role of women has not changed significantly over the years. They continue to bear the brunt of child care and household responsibilities, in addition to holding down jobs or running their own businesses. The typical Nigerian husband considers it beneath his dignity to perform household chores. There is often a clear delineation between the kinds of tasks, commercial activities, and jobs that men and women do. This distinction is very much in evidence in the Nigerian marketplace, where women far outnumber men both as traders and customers. The casual observer might infer from this that the marketplace is a female domain, but this perception is inaccurate. Although women have always outnumbered men in the marketplace, the men have wielded the real power behind the scenes. It was noted above that the marketplace was administered formerly by the local head chief and more recently by elected local government councils. Both the head chieftaincy and the councils are male-dominated institutions. The true picture is that while women dominate at the retail level, men dominate at the production, wholesale, and administrative levels of the market structure. In addition, some commercial activities are perceived to be either male oriented or female oriented. Sometimes there appears to be no logical reason for the distinction other than the mere fact that the activity has been a male or female preserve for as long as anyone can remember. For instance, butchers are almost exclusively male while fishmongers are almost exclusively female. Female-oriented activities are purposely avoided by men, and male-oriented activities are often closed to women, either overtly or covertly.
Women have been active in local and national
For people to come to conclusions about a culture belonging to other people or country, there must be unique experiences and knowledge. People struggle with visions of a fair, moral, harmonious and equitable society which are different to come up with these conclusions (Vinken, Soeters & Ester, 2004).